LOCAL CONTRA COSTA COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS WIN IN FILM CONTEST TO PROMOTE SUICIDE PREVENTION AND MENTAL WELLNESS AMONG CALIFORNIA YOUTH

Walnut Creek, Calif. — Films written and produced by students at Heritage High School, Deer Valley High School, and Making Waves Academy were recognized in the third annual Directing Change Student Film Program, a statewide prevention effort sponsored by Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement and the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) that empowers young people to promote suicide prevention and end the silence about mental illness among their peers.

This year 420 submissions, representing 1226 students from 112 high schools and 7 University of California (UC) campus locations were received. Participating students competed regionally by submitting 60-second films in two categories: suicide prevention and ending the silence of mental illness.

Confronting stigma matters when it comes to young people. Approximately 1 in 5 youth ages 13 to 18 experiences a mental health challenge in a given year. When young people feel alone in dealing with mental health challenges, they may be afraid to talk about it, and not get the help they need. Delay in accessing needed mental health services is a missed opportunity for youth to improve their lives and reach their potential.

By directing change the young filmmakers aim to encourage their peers to stand up for others experiencing a mental health challenge and connect their friends to help.
Chris Lorenz, Educator, Directing Change Advisory Group, expressed: “I love the idea of bringing these topics up to students in a “non-textbook” way. Anyone can read about the signs of suicide or mental illness but to actually take these issues and form a statement about them, be respectful, and think deeply about impacting the opinion of others requires a level of involvement that has lasting impact.”

All submissions were judged by volunteer experts in mental health and suicide prevention, members of the media and professionals in filmmaking and video production. The films were judged based on how the entries creatively explored the topics while also adhering to guidelines about how to safely and appropriately communicate about suicide prevention and mental illness.
Effective stigma reduction, mental health promotion, and suicide prevention requires early and repeated intervention throughout the stages of childhood and the transition to adulthood. According to the 2014 RAND survey of elementary through high school principals in California, more than three-quarters cited students’ “social, emotional, and mental health” as a moderate or severe problem at their schools. All participating schools were provided with educational resources and offered a suicide prevention or mental health program for their school through donations from various non-profit organizations.

To view the full list of the regional winners and their winning films visit: http://www.directingchange.org/contest-winners-finalists/

About Directing Change
The Directing Change program encourages students across California are invited to Direct Change by creating 60-second films in two categories: Suicide Prevention or Ending the Silence of Mental Illness. Through exposure to the submission guidelines and judging forms, youth participants, school staff and judges are exposed to “safe messaging” guidelines for mental health and suicide prevention, warning signs, how to appropriately respond to someone in distress, as well as how to stand up for others who are experiencing a mental health challenge. In addition, participation in Directing Change opens the door to introduce prevention programs to the school. Every school that engages with the contest receives an Ending the Silence presentation from NAMI and one of several donated suicide prevention programs. For more information visit: www.directingchange.org

About the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA)

About the California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA) CalMHSA is an organization of county governments working to improve mental health outcomes for individuals, families and communities. Prevention and Early Intervention programs implemented by CalMHSA are funded by counties through the voter-approved Mental Health Services Act (Prop. 63). Prop. 63 provides the funding and framework needed to expand mental health services to previously underserved populations and all of California’s diverse communities.

2015 Winning Film